Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Gene Stephens, 1961 Topps #102

Don't even act like you didn't know that today was Gene Stephens' 79th birthday. I poke fun, but the Arkansas native hung around the big leagues for a dozen seasons as a part-time outfielder, primarily with the Red Sox. He spent 364 days as an Oriole, arriving on June 9, 1960 from Boston in exchange for outfielder Willie Tasby and departing for Kansas City on June 8, 1961 in exchange for the supremely flaky "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry.

At first blush, his O's tenure was underwhelming. Gene batted .238/.327/.373 with 5 homers and 11 RBI in 227 plate appearances in 1960, and dipped to .190/.347/.224 with a pair of RBI in 72 trips to the plate the following year before being traded. But the five homers he hit in his first half-season in Charm City are more than he hit in all but one full season elsewise (9, 1958). Stephens had one of his biggest hits as an Oriole just a week after joining the team. On June 17, 1960, Detroit's Frank Lary had blanked the Birds for 6 innings and was protecting a 1-0 lead when Brooks Robinson led off the seventh with a triple. The runner had to hold on a grounder to first base by pinch hitter Bob Boyd, which brought up the pitcher's spot in the order. Manager Paul Richards called upon Gene to pinch-hit for Jerry Walker, and the outfielder responded with a go-ahead two-run home run. The O's pushed across another run and held on for a 3-1 win. It was the third and final pinch homer of Stephens' career. Incredibly, his first longball as a pinch-hitter also came off of Lary, on August 28, 1956. Even better, it was an inside-the-park job! Frank Lary was probably not a Gene Stephens fan; in their 28 meetings, the outfielder batted .308 and slugged .731, adding a pair of doubles and a third home run to his couple of pinch homers. Not bad work for someone with 37 career home runs.

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